Stevenage gambler who stole £12,500 avoids jail

He appeared at the court on Thursday.

He appeared at the court on Thursday. - Credit: Archant

A man who illegally transferred £12,500 into his online betting account in the hope his winnings would enable him to pay off his debts has been spared jail.

Nicholas Ricketts, of Newport in the Isle of Wight, was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years, at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to the offence.

Ricketts, 30, transferred the money when he and several friends attended a party at Joanne Warner’s house in Stevenage on November 16 last year.

The group consumed food and alcohol and after everyone went to bed he then took Ms Warner’s bank cards and transferred the money into to his BetVictor betting app on his phone.

He then played several games before falling asleep.

On November 27 Ms Warner received a call from HSBC saying that it had received a signed letter and a copy of her driving license from the gambling website.

Tesco Bank also rang her three days later to say they had cancelled several transactions from her account because they believed they were fraudulent.

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Ms Warner was reimbursed most of the money which Ricketts claimed, but was unable to prove, he had transferred back the day after the offence.

Prosecutor Rafia Khatun said: “He breached the woman’s trust by entering her house and even though she had received most of the money back the bank has lost a considerable amount of money. There were several transactions involved which makes this offence more serious.

“He is also currently on a community order for a previous fraud conviction so I think the starting point when considering a sentence should be six months imprisonment.”

Speaking on Ricketts behalf defence solicitor Neil Blackaby said: “Before the event he had recently lost his job working as a car salesmen at Letchworth Peugeot. He had been earning a good wage in that job and when he became unemployed he was unable to afford his rent and was sofa surfing at the time.

“He had built over thousands of pounds of debts and owed lots of his friends money so he thought that if he transferred the money into his betting account he would be able to pay them off with the winnings and then put the money back.

“When he woke up in the morning he immediately saw the error of his ways and transferred the money back.

“He is now in paid employment earning around £1,200 a month and living with his girlfriend who he has been with for the past seven months.

“They live together on the Isle of Wight and sending him to prison would probably make her homeless because she wouldn’t be able to pay the rent and result in the loss of his job.”

Passing sentence magistrate Stewart said: “This is a very serious matter and is so severe that a custodial sentence is the only option. However, we are going to suspend that since you have paid back most of the money and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

“If you commit any offences during that period or violate the terms you will serve the remainder of your sentence in prison.

“You now have an opportunity to put your life back together and we suggest that you take it.”

Ricketts was ordered to pay £435 in fines, including £270 back to Mr Warner, ordered to attended a supervision program and a Thinking Skills program both of which he will complete on the Isle of Wight.